Chapter 14 – Many Smarts, Only One Wisdom

Many Smarts, Only One Wisdom

You can spend your life from birth to death in one country.  You are born into a society which has rules, dogmas, beliefs and norms.  Given our natural tendency to adopt our parents and teachers’ teaching and learning – we are “tainted” with their thoughts from early childhood.

By the time we have developed “our own” personality and character, it is often too late to change it (for better or worse.)  We have no other references to consider, especially if we have not traveled the world or the universe.  Most of what we learn is categorized into “Common Sense…”

Say you chose to become an accountant.  You finished 12 years of general education in elementary school and high school.  You then went to get your accounting degree and spent another 4 years to do so.  After that you became an intern or an apprentice at an accounting firm and spent the rest of your career climbing the corporate ladder.  You reached age 67 and now you are officially eligible to retire and begin collecting your social benefits.

Assume you wanted to write about your experiences, and tell the world about the insights you have seen and learned in your line of work.  You would perhaps write about clients who never paid their bills, office politics, the partner who was caught embezzling, how clients often remember to file their taxes at the last minute and so on.

Because we can’t really have multitudes of careers in the same lifetime, you really can only observe so much.  Now consider another retiree who chose to be a doctor, say a pediatrician.  This person would also want to write about their insights and will ALSO describe clients who never paid their bills, office politics, the partner who was caught embezzling…


If you think about more people, more professions, more lines of work – you will notice a pattern in their insights.  For some reason, they observed the same mechanics, the same relationship issues, the same human behaviors and tendencies NO MATTER what they did in their lives.  This could only mean that while they were trained to be an accountant, doctor, lawyer, personal trainer, speech therapist and [fill in the blank] – that there is a common experience underneath it all.

There are layers of knowledge that are bestowed on us in schools, which SEEM to be relevant and unique to the profession we choose – nonetheless, some of the phenomenon are universal.

Assume you collected ALL the memoirs of ALL the retirees from ALL their lines of work… What would be the common thread?  What would be universal?

What could be the connecting experience between a fisherman, an astronaut, a politician, a kindergarten teacher and a housewife?

Because there is no line of work that collects all this data from all the different people who retired – much of this information is kept within professional groups.  While it will not make sense for a doctor to learn accounting practices, and for a nurse to learn baking – they all learn the same basic skills like math, language, statistics and so on. To denote what is common to all professionals and what is specific, we shall call the common knowledge Wisdom and everything “else” that pertains to a very specific field Smarts.

If you spend more of your time learning about Wisdom, the general rules that apply EVERYWHERE, you will see things differently.  You will be able to predict things before they happen even if you are not trained in a specific field.  If you believe that knowledge is power – you will be more powerful in your observations.  You will be able to examine you life and the lives of others in a whole new way.

Common Sense Is Not So Common

Because we don’t teach wisdom for the most part in schools, one has to accumulate it in their life-examination journey.  It is often too late in the game that one seeks to learn wisdom.  We are all creatures of habit and if we were doing something for years, it is hard to change.

This is why common sense is not so common.  This is why wisdom is not so common.

In a luxury furniture store, a sofa was on the showroom with a $10,000 price tag.  Is was there for six months and no one purchased it.  When time came for year-end sale, the store manager slashed the price to $5,000 in hopes that it will sell fast.  A regional manager toured the store and saw the discounted price tag…  He immediately asked the store manager to change it to $20,000.

The sofa was sold the very next day.

Common sense dictates that the reason people don’t buy something is because it is too expensive.  Wisdom in the luxury good store business dictates that reason people don’t buy something is because it is too cheap…

Now, if you don’t know this pearl of wisdom, and you ventured to start you own luxury furniture store – your memoirs may read “these clients… man, they are crazy… the lower the prices went so did the sales.”  At the same time, the retiree who knew how this business really works, knew the wisdom of this business, their memoirs would read “these clients…. man, they are crazy… the higher the prices went so did the sales.”

Do you think this wisdom about luxury good is true only about sofas?  only about this specific store?  only in this century?

Wisdom is going to be true forever, as it is based on the forces of life.  As everything ELSE are specific to a profession, the time you live in, your family, your culture etc.

If you boil-down any event in your life, and separate what is common wisdom and what is specific, you will see patterns that will allow you to be wiser not only in your field, or in your circle of influence – but rather everywhere.

While MANY people will be smarter than you, including your own children, they will know more specific things than you.  They may know more trivia answers, how to play a certain game, how to use the latest technology… you will be able to counter this with true wisdom which lasts forever.

You will be able to share your wisdom with any generation, as this knowledge is not specific, yet, it is the primal knowledge needed to examine your life.

Kid: mom, you don’t know technology and how this new gizmo works…

Mom: you may be smarter than me, but I am wiser than you

Click here for Chapter 15

References and Quotes:

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.”

— Albert Einstein

“The difference between a smart man and a wise one is this: A smart man can work his way out of a difficulty that the wise man will not get into in the first place.”

— Jewish Proverb

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

Erma Bombeck

Tolstoy Reading List

Tolstoy Calendar Of Wisdom


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